Middle East

Iraq executes Saddam Hussein's aide Abid Hamid Mahmud

A photo of Abid Hamid Mahmud from July 2004, taken at a court appearance in Iraq.
Image caption Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti was Saddam Hussein's top guard and secretary.

Iraq has executed a top aide of toppled leader Saddam Hussein, the country's justice ministry says.

Saddam's personal secretary and chief bodyguard Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti was hanged for crimes of genocide relating to the suppression of Iraqi Shia Muslims during the 1980s.

When he was captured in 2003 by US-led coalition forces, he was number 4 on a list of most-wanted Iraqi officials.

Saddam Hussein himself was executed in December 2006.

Iraq's former Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz and former Interior Minister Saadun Shaker are also awaiting execution after they were handed death sentences alongside Mr Mahmud in October 2010.

Mr Mahmud's execution is the first high-profile hanging since that of Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali", in January 2010.

Mr Mahmud was known as the ace of diamonds on the US deck of cards that ranked leaders of Saddam Hussein's government.

Image caption Abid Hamid Mahmud at Saddam Hussein's side in 2002

Saddam Hussein was known as the ace of spades, while his sons Uday and Qusay were known as the ace of hearts and the ace of clubs.

Mr Mahmud, who came from the same village as Saddam Hussein and was a distant cousin, controlled access to the president and was frequently at his side.

He is said to have directed matters of state and handed down many of the regime's repressive orders.

The US claimed Mr Mahmud was also authorised to deploy weapons of mass destruction.

In February, rights group Human Rights Watch called on Iraq to halt executions after 65 prisoners were hanged in the first 40 days of 2012.

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